FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kucinich: Maverick or Stalking Horse?

by RAHUL MAHAJAN

Winter approaches and a young politician’s fancy turns to thoughts of the 2008 presidential campaign. Among the announced candidates is antiwar favorite Dennis Kucinich.

I have nothing against Kucinich. He’s one of the most progressive Congresspeople and a genuinely decent, honest person who seems to have no trace of the personal corruption so endemic to politicians. Overall, his values and political stances seem highly compatible with the transformative left agenda that so many believe in quietly.

I disagree with him on some issues. On trade, I want a fair international order with binding rules that apply to everybody ­ rules that embody values very different from those in the WTO ­ while Kucinich wants an essentially anarchic world order where the United States strong-arms other countries through bilateral trade pacts. A position he shares with George W. Bush — back when Bush had positions on issues other than “freedom.”

To be fair, Bush wants to impose better conditions for U.S. corporations and for militaristic U.S. imperialism on weaker countries, whereas Kucinich merely wants to impose “social clauses” that are protectionist in effect ­ which is, of course, the kind of “humanitarian imperialism” that Kucinich resolutely opposes in the military sphere. He also doesn’t seem to understand that this is impossible ­ the United States, beholden as it is to corporate interests and to its privileged position in the world order, cannot possibly be in the vanguard on this issue. Look to Venezuela, the G21, Mercosur, anywhere except the United States.

I also task him for not voting against the absurd congressional resolution blindly supporting Israel’s Lebanon war, whose avowed target was the civilian political supporters of Hizbullah ­ he voted “present,” a cowardly act for someone who wants to be a leader of the left.

Though these are important defects, Kucinich is in general very good, and, based solely on the issues, worthy of support.

Even so, if you are considering supporting him, I want to caution you.

Given the conservative-nationalistic populist refoundation of the Democratic Party, most likely Kucinich will stand out as the only even slightly anti-militarist and anti-imperialist Democratic candidate. Short of a run by Nader, Bill Moyers, or someone like that, he’ll probably also be the only worthy candidate with any public recognition.

Still, despite numerous fatuous proclamations of his, there’s absolutely no way he will win or even make a respectable showing, and so one must consider what is to be gained from supporting him.

Last time, his campaign spent $11 million — $11 million of activist money poured down a rat-hole, in my opinion, along with a great deal of time, effort, and enthusiasm.

His campaign was intellectually deficient on foreign policy, a crippling fault. His talks were long on platitudes about peace, but short on the specifics about real issues that might have spread the left message beyond the choir. So ignorant was he regarding the U.S.-backed coup against Aristide that, in a televised debate, he said what the U.S. was doing was good, but it needed to do more ­ it was left to John Kerry, oddly, to expose the extent of the Bush administration’s animus toward Aristide.

Although Kucinich’s “position” on Iraq was fine, he had very little to say about it and avoided the issue in favor of expansive visions on social programs that couldn’t possibly make any difference in a political campaign defined by Iraq.

What really stood out, though, was his behavior at the Democratic Convention. Although he had maintained his candidacy in order to hang onto his delegates, loyalty to the Party trumped the antiwar cause and he capitulated to the militarism of the Democratic leadership, instructing his delegates to back down on the question of an antiwar plank in the Democratic platform — even though an estimated 95% of all delegates to the convention were antiwar.

Even though he did speak there, he went with the flow and talked about Kerry the great war hero. Not a mention of the still-fresh Abu Ghraib/torture scandal, alluded to only by Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson

Last but hardly least, he did nothing to help build self-sustaining left organizations that could continue to exert influence after the campaign was over.

Those of you who want to work for Kucinich don’t need to rule it out right away. But make him accountable. He’s not going to win and the meaning or lack thereof of his campaign is going to be in relation to the antiwar movement. He needs to know if he runs again he’s working for us.

RAHUL MAHAJAN is publisher of the weblog Empire Notes, with regularly updated commentary on U.S. foreign policy, the occupation of Iraq, and the state of the American Empire. He has been to occupied Iraq twice, and was in Fallujah during the siege in April. His most recent book is Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond. He can be reached at rahul@empirenotes.org

 

 

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail